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Israel to Sweden: Don’t Make the Paris Attacks About Palestine

Israel is demanding an explanation for remarks from Sweden's foreign minister, who said extremism is in some ways tied to the the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (R) poses for a picture with Sweden's King Carl Gustaf on February 10, 2015 at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND        (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (R) poses for a picture with Sweden's King Carl Gustaf on February 10, 2015 at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than 24 hours after Islamic State militants killed 129 people and injured more than 300 in Paris, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom publicly stated that she believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was partly responsible for a pattern of radicalization in the Middle East.

In a Saturday interview with Swedish public broadcaster SVT, Wallstrom said “it is clear that we have reasons to worry… to see that there are so many people who have become radicalized.”

“Once again we return to situations like that in the Middle East, especially [concerning] Palestinians who think: there is no future for us, we must accept a desperate situation or resort to violence,” she added.

Israel wasn’t too pleased with her remarks. A spokesman for the foreign ministry blasted the comments as “appallingly impudent” and on Monday summoned the Swedish ambassador in Tel Aviv for a clarification.

“Whoever fatuously attempts to create a link between radical Islamist attacks and the current problems between Israel and the Palestinians is fooling himself, his people and international public opinion,” the ministry said in a statement.

Wallstrom’s office, on the other hand, said the quotation “was taken from a long interview” about the root causes of extremism and the minister “neither directly nor indirectly linked the terrorist attacks in Paris to the situation in Israel and Palestine.” 

This is just the latest in a quiet but steady decline in relations between Sweden and Israel, which worsened after Stockholm agreed to recognize Palestine in Oct. 2014.

In January, Wallstrom indefinitely postponed a visit to Israel there amid reports Avigdor Lieberman, then-Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, said she was no longer welcome. At the time, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon warned that onlookers should not hold their breath waiting for her to reschedule.

“Do not wait to travel to Israel until the Swedish foreign minister comes here, because that could take a long time,” he said. “The Swedish foreign minister would not have been given any official meetings in Israel if she had traveled here. What Sweden did was an utterly unfriendly action.”

But Swedish authorities didn’t seem too concerned: The next month, Stockholm hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to meet with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

Image Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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